Spring 2016 Anime Slate: Crunchyroll Edition

The Spring 2016 seasons’ well underway, and I have a beef with Crunchyroll:

They have too many shows that I want to watch!

Just were am I going to find the time to reap this amazing value for my monthly subscription? Thanks for monopolizing my entertainment time, Crunchyroll!

Here’s the shows I’m “complaining” about:

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode or two sprinkled throughout these descriptions, so it’s best if you watch the first episode of each before reading. Remember, this is a fan site, and I like to extol the virtues of the shows. Or, if you don’t plan to watch a show at all, maybe reading the description will pique your interest!

KIZNAIVER

Niiyama finds out the hard way that pain inflicted on one of them is inflicted on all of them. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Niiyama finds out the hard way that pain inflicted on one of them is inflicted on all of them. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Katsuhira Agata gets bullied a lot because, as the narrative says, “people can’t find themselves within” him. In other words, he doesn’t feel pain, and he’s been beaten up so many times he just doesn’t care anymore. Bullies actually get tired of hitting him. One day, Sonozaki Noriko comes to him and says he’s been selected to become a Kiznaiver, a part of the new Kizuna System. Then she pushes him down the steps.

He awakens in a facility where several others have been gathered, also to become Kiznaivers. One is Agata’s friend Chidori Takashiro, who’s usually cheerful and helpful, but has a hidden heart-break that’s revealed in the second episode. All of the other characters, too, have emotional wounds, like Honoka Maki, who seems hostile and condescending to everyone; Hajime Tenga, who protected Agata from bullies in the first episode but who seems to jump to conclusions way too quickly; and Niko Niiyama, who reports that she can see fairies everywhere.

The Kizuna System is supposedly dedicated to bringing about world peace by establishing a common vocabulary of pain. In the second episode, we see that the other Kiznaivers feel damage that Noriko does to Agata, who she has strapped to a gurney. We also see the unorthodox way that Noriko forces everyone to introduce themselves — not a shallow introduction, but an admission of their darkest secrets or pains.

There’s a lot I like about this show. Visually, it reminds me of Kill la Kill, which isn’t a shock since it was from the same studio as Kiznaiver (Trigger). The animation is enthralling, and the voice acting sounds great to me. There are some really deep insights, like how humans unconsciously establish their hierarchy by seeing how others react to them, the implication being that’s why Agata was bullied. That’s seriously good stuff!

Thematically, I think I see where the show and its Kizuna system are going, but I have some real philosophical reservations. For example: Noriko pushes Agata down the stairs, which would have killed without the Kizuna System. Why the cruelty? We also see her more or less torture Agata to inflict the pain she thinks is necessary to force the others to introduce themselves “properly.” For an initiative targeting world peace, it’s disappointingly rooted in coercion. I wonder if that’s the point?

Regardless of my misgivings, this should seems to have the visuals, characters, and thematic depth to keep my interest.

Amazon already has several interesting items from Kiznaiver:

Re:ZERO

A small detail or a scene can capture my imagination. The half-elf speaking to the sub-spirits did that for me in Re;Zero. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
A small detail or a scene can capture my imagination. The half-elf speaking to the sub-spirits did that for me in Re;Zero. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Natsuki Subaru is a NEET who finds himself summoned to a fantasy world. He immediately realizes what’s going on, and he begins looking for both his super powers and his quest. On his way, three unsavory youths try to rob him, but a beautiful young half elf who’s adept at combat saves him. She gives him what we later find out is a fake name. Thinking (hoping?) that maybe she’s part of his quest, he offers to help her find her stolen insignia. Subaru learns that Felt, a young woman who steals on consignment, was the one who stole the insignia, and he tracks her to Rom’s shady store. Still thinking this is his quest, Subaru negotiates with them and finds that the camera in his cell phone is worth quite a lot — enough, even, to buy back the insignia. When the deal’s almost complete, Elsa Granhirte, the original buyer, arrives.

The show takes a dark turn at this point.

Disappointed that Felt and Rom are about to betray her, she slays them with blindingly fast moves. Subaru tries to defend himself, but she disembowels him. He awakens at almost the same point in time that he entered this fantasy world.

I had very low expectations for this show. I’ve seen other “NEET goes to fantasy world and meets beautiful girl” shows before. Some of them, like Outbreak Company, are among my favorites! But wish-fulfillment isn’t a category I enjoy, and I thought that’s what this was. Seems I was wrong! Though little things bothered me (Subaru knows immediately that he’s in a fantasy world, but it takes him a while to realize he respawned at a save point?), but overall, I like the characters, the pacing, and the drama. One scene in particular, where the young half-elf whose name we don’t let know yet (from the perspective of the anime) calls upon the sub-spirits for information, was particularly beautiful.

So, we’ll see if the show can continue to exceed my expectations. I hope so — Outbreak Company’s feeling lonely atop my list of “NEET goes to fantasy world” list!

Amazon doesn’t have much re:ZERO merchandise yet. May I direct you to some Outbreak Company goodies?

Twin Star Exorcists

After the death of his friends while on a mission to destroy Impurities (Kegare) in their world called Magano, Rokuro Enmadou was done with being an exorcist. Despite his status as a prodigy, he refused all future missions. That is, until he accidentally became entangled in a fight between Benio Adashino and a nasty Kegare. Adashino was herself a prodigy, and she took her responsibilities very, very seriously. She knew what a single Kegare could do to people, and she was determined to protect everyone. Not knowing Enmadou’s history, thinking he was a civilian, she vowed to protect him until the Kegare had almost beaten her. Still unwilling to give up, she prepared to launch another attack, probably resulting in her death, when Enmadou intervened. He destroyed the Kegare with a single blow.

Enmadou, enraged that he has to once again get involved, destroys the Kegare with a single punch. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Enmadou, enraged that he has to once again get involved, destroys the Kegare with a single punch. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The animation is attractive without being too complex; the world of Magano is stark with blacks and reds that effectively communicate that you’re not in the safe normal world anymore. I like Adashino’s youthful dedication to her task. She apparently hasn’t suffered a loss like Enmadou; or if she has, she reacted differently than he did. Enmadou’s attempt to withdraw from exorcist life seemed understandable, and I’m glad that he saved Adashino, but that sequence felt a little cliche to me. At least, I wanted to see more of his dramatic struggle.

I wonder if that makes me a sadist?

Regardless, the rest of the show is keeping me entertained. I particularly liked the development where the prophesy isn’t about either of them, but about their child — who, of course, isn’t born yet, and they kinda don’t like each other! I’m looking forward to watching that aspect of the show unfold.

A commentator on Crunchyroll, nekojinpink, said, “Rokuro gave up his dream of becoming the strongest onmyoji [ exorcist ] so he could become one punch man xD.” I thought that was a hilarious way to look at Enmadou’s powers, which almost seem too great. I want to see how that develops, too.

Amazon has some of the graphics novels that might interest you:

Hundred

I was shocked -- shocked, I say! -- when Kisaragi showed that he could wield his Hundred better than anyone expected. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I was shocked — shocked, I say! — when Kisaragi showed that he could wield his Hundred better than anyone expected. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Hayato Kisaragi has a nearly unparalleled talent for wielding a weapon called a Hundred, which is the only thing that can stop a brutal life-form called the Savage that’s invading the Earth. He arrives at the city Little Garden, which is a city-ship much bigger than our aircraft carriers, and sees that two enthusiastic students are there to meet him. Wanting to avoid a scene, he sneaks away, only to find that Emil Crossford was waiting for him. Kisaragi doesn’t know Emil, but Emil is very, very happy to see him. They attend the entrance ceremony to listen to Claire Harvey, the powerful student council president, give her stern welcoming speech. The two young women who Kisaragi had avoided arrive late. Claire tries to make an example of them by expelling them for being late, and Emil jumps to their defense. Reluctantly, feeling guilty that he put the two young women in this situation, Kisaragi defends them, too, and ends up agreeing to a duel with Claire.

Sound familiar? From most every aspect I can think of, from look and feel to character types to the world in which they fight, Hundred looks to me like Infinite Stratos and Chrome Shelled Regios had a baby. Looking at how much it resembled both of them, the proud parents declared, “This is our child. Let us name it Hundred.”

Kisaragi is too much like Layfon Alseif (minus his tragic background, though Hundred could change that). He’a also a little like Ichika Orimura without the older sister. Claire is too much like a bad tempered, more highly positioned Cecilia Alcott, complete with golden ringlets (I think Cecilia wore it better).  She even has a red version of Cecilia’s Blue Tears! And Emil? “He” is just like Charlotte Dunois, down to his pretending to be a boy to get close to his version of Orimura! And no offense to Emil, but Charlotte at least tried to pretend to act like a boy. 

I’m not saying this is a bad show. I’ve only seen two episodes, and it might veer in an original direction at any moment. But right now, it’s looking like it copied a ton from the other two shows, and Chrome Shelled Regios is a future Crow’s Caw of Fame entry. That’s not a great way to get on my good side! 

I couldn’t find anything Hundred-related on Amazon, so instead, may I interest you in Infinite Stratos or Chrome Shelled Regios goodies?

The Asterisk War

Julis doesn't trust Dirk -- and with good reason! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Julis doesn’t trust Dirk — and with good reason! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Amagiri Ayato and Julis Riessfeld are back for another season of fighting in the Phoenix Festa — and another season of dealing with political intrigue among the schools. Ayato is still searching for the whereabouts of his sister Amagiri Haruka; Julis is still fighting to earn money so she can pull her adopted orphanage out of poverty. The show has a lot going for it. The politics between the various schools, like Ayato and Julis’ Seidoukan Academy and Rewolf Black Institute (led by the inscrutable and arrogant Dirk Eberwein) dominated the first season and looks to remain important in the second season. In the second season, Jie Long Institute, under the direction of the youthful and cunning Fan Xinglou, is taking a leading role in the matches against our heroes.

Also back are Sasamiya Saya (perhaps my favorite character) and to a lesser extent, Toudou Kirin, also students from Seidoukan Academy. While they complete in the Festa and therefore against Ayato and Julis, they are also trusted friends, and the interactions between them are among the most rewarding scene in the series. Sure, it’s a high-school based military academy anime, so there are a certain amount of plot and character choices that feel familiar. But on the other hand, the battle scenes are well executed, including some genuinely interesting combat strategies as the teams struggle to match their foes’ myriad skills, and the characters share some authentic emotions. I hope the show keeps up the tension like it did last season!

The Asterisk War is one of the series I’m reviewing this season. You can see my review of episodes 13 and 14 here. You can also read my review of the first season episodes starting here.

Amazon has some Asterisk War merchandise that looks interesting:

The Lost Village

A bus driver is such a hazardous profession! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
A bus driver is such a hazardous profession! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I generally use the main character to introduce a series. It helps me focus, and it gives me a vehicle to organize the thoughts I present. This show has more than 30 character so far, so it’s a little hard for me to approach. The character we’ve seen most so far is Mitsumune, a weak-willed young man who is on a bus with the other 29 people. They’re all on their way to a mythical village Nanakimura, a village that’s an urban legend, to start a new life. The trip was arranged and advertised by a travel agency with a dubious reputation. Mitsumune was bullied when he was in middle school, and it only stopped when he started taking directions from Speedstar (pseudonym), another man who’s on the bus. The bullying left him with little self-esteem and a tendency to bond with whomever was nice to him. The others on the bus have their own struggles and reasons to want to put their lives behind them to begin again.

One of the women on the bus, Masaki, catches Mitsumune’s attention because she seems ill. At a rest stop, he asks if she’s okay, and she says it was just motion sickness. This plays a big part when they get moving again. The bus driver, fed up with what he sees as their frivolous reasons for leaving civilization, looses his composure and begins driving erratically. He skids off guard rails and drives too close to the edge of ravines. It gets so bad that Masaki staggers to the front of the bus and vomits all over him.

On one hand, it returned the bus driver to sanity. On the other hand, everyone seemed much more concerned about Masaki’s breach of etiquette than with the driver’s dangerous driving. I’m hopeful that’s not a precedent for the show!

As you can imagine, the village isn’t what any of them expected. Nanakimura was completely deserted, though it showed some signs of recent habitation. The houses have some damage, like punctured paper windows, but the futons are still in good shape, the dishes are clean, and the fields were cultivated — all until recently. Coupled with these oddities, the settlers discover fresh claw marks that are the right size for a bear. Nerves begin to fray and their personalities begin to surface.

By the end of the 3, the show was beginning to feel like “Lord of the Flies — Anime Edition.” Though on reflection, I wouldn’t mind having something I wrote compared to a work of literature…

There’s little to no Amazon materials for this show yet. So, how about some other spooky/scary anime titles?


High School Fleet

Mashiro tries to apologize for being late, but it doesn't help. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Mashiro tries to apologize for being late, but it doesn’t help. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

If I had low (unjustified) expectations for re:Zero, I had even lower expectations for High School Fleet. I expected a light-hearted show along the lines of KanColle at best and a poor re-telling of Girls und Panzer at worst. What I got was something that might actually be distinctive and original.

The show starts with two young friends, Misaki Akeno and China Moeka, who want to join the Blue Mermaids. The Blue Mermaids are an all-women naval fleets that protect the world. When the two friends finally get to the naval academy, they end up assigned to different ships. Much to her surprise, Akeno is designated the captain the destroyer Harekaze. Munetani Mashiro, who considers herself capable student but is cursed with bad luck, is assigned as Akeno’s executive officer. They become aware that the Harekaze’s entire crew is made up of, shall we say, the students deemed to be least likely to succeed. They live up to that reputation as they steam towards the rendezvous point with the rest of the training fleet. They have navigational and propulsion difficulty and arrive late — only to be fired upon by the instructor’s ship.

This is where the show left my expectations in the dust. So far as we know, the instructor’s attack wasn’t a training exercise. The instructor’s ship fired live ammo at the Harekaze. Akeno quickly got over her shock and, while trying to keep the bridge crew calm, ordered an escape. She hoped to put some distance between them so she could either apologize properly for being late or find the source of the misunderstanding. They couldn’t shake the instructor’s ship, though, which continued to fire live ammo, so Akeno ordered the torpedo room to fire a training round. It struck the target and disabled the engines.

As they were trying to collect themselves and conduct damage control, they received news over the radio that their ship, the Harekaze, had mutinied, had attacked the instructor’s ship, and had sunk it. In that moment, they became a hunted ship.

That was all in the first episode. In the second episode, things got worse for the crew of the Harekaze. They encountered a German battleship that immediately opened fire. Again they tried to evade, but Akeno was forced to return fire. They were able to damage the battleship’s engines so they could escape, but not before one of the German ship’s officers escaped in a motorized lifeboat. The battleship damaged it, but Akeno rescued the occupant, who, as of the end of the second episode, was safe and unconscious in sickbay.

What’s going on with the instructor and her deceit? Was she pulling the strings, or was she fooled, too? Why did everyone buy so easily into the idea that the Harekaze mutinied? Why did a German officer risk her life to escape her own ship? These are dramatic questions, and I’m looking forward to getting answers. Not answers like the ones from Nosa Kouko, a member of the Harekaze’s bridge crew. She acts out both sides of conversations illustrating her favorite conspiracy theories. No, I’m looking for real answers, though to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprise if Kouko’s rants contained a kernel of truth.

I could find no High School Fleet merchandise yet at Amazon. Please enjoy this collection of things you can buy from KanColle!


Post Author: tcrow